How NOT to manage a crisis

Hayward must have studied management in parallel universe, where set of anti-rules for bad leadership are taught. Here’s what I imagine are those anti-rules:

Deny and minimise problems. Drop any mention of the high-minded principles you announced at the beginning of your term, such as safety and culture that puts people first. Sweep them under the rug as you play down the significance of the crisis. Or better yet, find someone else to blame — supplier, business partner, lowly employee or two.

Emphasise your own power and importance. Keep yourself front and centre all the time. Rarely bring forward the rest of the team, nor even indicate that it’s team effort.

Make the story all about you. Talk about your heavy burdens and the costs to your life. When forced to acknowledge the true victims, pay lip service.

Never apologise, and don’t even pretend to learn from your mistakes. Brush off public disapproval, and persist in the same mindless behaviour that provoked criticism in the first place.

Hang onto your job even when it’s clear you should go, in order to negotiate the highest severance package, whether you deserve it or not. Cling to power, and keep everyone guessing to the very end.

Just reverse these rules, and the outcome could have been different. Good leaders must face facts, prepare for the worst case scenario, draw on the whole team, show constant concern for stakeholders, acknowledge mistakes and not make the same ones twice, and do the honourable thing if getting in the way of company progress.

From The Biggest Mistake Leader Can Make, symposium at the Harvard Business School and an accompanying blog and video series, where management thinkers gathered to investigate what is necessary today to develop the leaders we need for tomorrow. blogs.hbr.org

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